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Charter Suit with $155M Award Overturned in Florida

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by Andrew Ujifusa

Earlier this week I wrote about a Florida jury awarding $155 million to a former charter school principal, Katherine Murphy, who claimed she was fired unjustly from the Aventura City Excellence School in Aventura, Fla. At the heart of her lawsuit was her claim that she was wrongly accused of having taken a bribe in return for enrolling a student who, based on the charter school's wait list, should not have been admitted. Both the charter school management organization that administers the school, Charter Schools USA, and the Aventura City manager were implicated in the suit, although the former was penalized for only $60,000, and both said they would appeal the decision.

That appeal has had quick results. The Miami Herald reported yesterday that Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez swatted down the $155 million award, which no doubt struck some people as an example of what a "runaway jury" can do in some lawsuits.

Murphy was fired from her job at the high-performing school in 2006, so this saga is a half-dozen years old. But as the Herald notes it's likely not over, since Murphy's attorney indicated he'll press for the $155 million award to be reinstated, and could appeal Rodriguez's move to overturn that amount.

By the way, if you look through the itemized list of damages the jury awarded Murphy, the items labeled "the present money value of loss or ability to earn money in the future" add up to $83.6 million. For comparison's sake, since we're just coming off a very expensive national election, Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and the bete noire of many liberals for lavishing wealth on GOP candidate Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates, spent $53 million in political contributions. His preferred candidates went 0-for-8 at the plate, and Murphy just suffered a setback as well.

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